Chanson d'automne

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This article is about the poem by Paul Verlaine. For the albums, see Autumn Song (Mose Allison album) and Autumn Song (Mannheim Steamroller album).

"Chanson d'automne" ("Autumn Song") is a poem by Paul Verlaine, one of the best known in the French language. It is included in Verlaine's first collection, Poèmes saturniens, published in 1866 (see 1866 in poetry). The poem forms part of the "Paysages tristes" ("Sad landscapes") section of the collection.[1]

In World War II lines from the poem were used to send messages to the French Resistance about the timing of the forthcoming Invasion of Normandy.


Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon cœur
D'une langueur
Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l'heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure;
Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m'emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.

Translation (by C. F. MacIntyre)[edit]

With long sobs
the violin-throbs
of autumn wound
my heart with languorous
and monotonous sound
Choking and pale
when I mind the tale
the hours keep,
my memory strays
down other days
and I weep;
and I let me go
where ill winds blow,
now here, now there,
harried and sped,
even as a dead
leaf, anywhere.

Critical analysis[edit]

The poem uses several stylistic devices and is in many ways typical of Verlaine, in that it employs sound techniques such as consonance (the repetition of "n" and "r" sounds) that also creates an onomatopoeic effect, sounding both monotonous and like a violin.[2] In the second verse, the stop consonant and pause after the word suffocant reflect the meaning of the word. The sound of the words Deçà, delà, in the third verse evoke the image of a dead leaf falling. Verlaine uses the symbolism of autumn in the poem to describe a sad view of growing old.

Use in World War II[edit]

In preparation for Operation Overlord, the BBC had signaled to the French Resistance that the opening lines of the 1866 Verlaine poem "Chanson d'Automne" were to indicate the start of D-Day operations. The first three lines of the poem, "Les sanglots longs / des violons / de l'automne" ("Long sobs of autumn violins"), meant that Operation Overlord was to start within two weeks. These lines were broadcast on 1 June 1944. The next set of lines, "Blessent mon coeur / d'une langueur / monotone" ("wound my heart with a monotonous languor"), meant that it would start within 48 hours and that the resistance should begin sabotage operations especially on the French railroad system; these lines were broadcast on 5 June at 23:15.[3][4][5]


  1. ^ Séries littéraires: Commentaire de Chanson d'Automne (French)
  2. ^ Lloyd Bishop, "Phonological Correlates of Euphony", The French Review, vol XLIX, no 1, Oct 1975
  3. ^ Bowden, Mark; Ambrose, Stephen E. (2002). Our finest day: D-Day: June 6, 1944. Chronicle. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-8118-3050-8. 
  4. ^ Hall, Anthony (2004). D-Day: Operation Overlord Day by Day. Zenith. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-7603-1607-8. 
  5. ^ Roberts, Andrew (2011). The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War. HarperCollins. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-06-122859-9. 

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